Whatever happens the rest of these Finals, it’s easy to look at the Miami Heat and think, “this team will be back.” They have Jimmy Butler in his prime, a young All-Star in Bam Adebayo, and rising young stars like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Plus, they have Erik Spoelstra and that Heat culture to keep everything running.
Except a return to the Finals is far from a given. Boston is young and improving, Milwaukee still has Giannis Antetokounmpo and the best defense in the land, and next season Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will start playing games in Brooklyn. While Butler is playing at his peak in these NBA Finals, he is 31, making it fair to ask how much longer that peak will last.
However, Miami is poised to land another big star, something Kevin O’Conner gets into in a fantastic story at The Ringer.
The 2021 free-agent class could be loaded with stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, plus Rudy Gobert and Paul George. It’s also deep with effective veterans and promising restricted free agents. Who wouldn’t at least consider taking their talents to Miami?
Front office executives around the league believe the Heat have become the league’s top destination for the next star with a wandering eye. Maybe it will be a free agent. Or maybe a player under contract who will seek a trade in 2021, since the Heat have good young players who could be traded in addition to first-round picks in 2025, 2026, and 2027…. Who knows what could happen in the coming years with Houston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Washington, or any other team facing a crossroads?
Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg have set up the Miami Heat to have flexibility, something every franchise craves. If Antetokounmpo decides to re-sign in Milwaukee and Leonard/George figure things out in Los Angeles, the Heat can pivot to whoever or whatever is next. Maybe it’s Bradley Beal, or maybe it’s a name we haven’t thought of yet — the fun of NBA trades and free agency is how unexpected it can be.
Miami puts together a tempting offer: a winning team, warm weather, no state taxes, and there are worse places to be young and single than South Beach. That said, it needs to be a fit — not every NBA superstar has the drive and mentality to thrive in the Heat culture. Butler did, LeBron James did, but not every player has their will.
As it always seems to be under Pat Riley, Miami is thinking a couple of steps ahead. Whatever direction the NBA trade winds blow, the Heat will be prepared.